What Do Your Students’ Personality Types Mean?

By Guest Contributor August 24, 2020

By Danielle Rhodes

“I just don’t get anything out of this activity.” “I haven’t connected with anyone in that group.” “Our personalities clash.” I can’t recall the number of times I’ve heard these or similar complaints from frustrated students who can’t seem to find a place to feel comfortable their student ministries.

Most ministry leaders feel like their jobs would be made much easier if they didn’t have to deal with personality clashes. But let’s start by clearing up one thing: there is no such thing as a personality clash—only misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Any personality type can mesh well with any other type with good leadership and the right environment.

Myers-briggs type indicator

One of the most popular personality inventories is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI). Isabel Myers-Briggs and Katharine Briggs, using Carl Jung’s theory of personality types, created this inventory to pinpoint an individual’s preferences through a series of questions. The inventory then takes the individual’s answers and assigns him or her a personality type, based on four major categories:

1) Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)—These refer to activities that energize a student. Extraverted students enjoy being around large groups of people and gain energy from the active world around them. Introverted students are more likely to sit back and observe. They get fueled after time alone or with a group of close friends.

2) Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)—These describe the method in which a student receives and interprets information from the world around them. Students who score high in the sensing type are likely to pay more attention to information processed through the five senses and hands-on experiences than students who score high in intuition. “N” students rely mostly on their impressions of situations to acquire information and develop new ideas.

3) Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)—These describe students’ decision-making processes. A “T” student will weigh all the facts and information before making a logical, informed decision, while an “F” student is more attuned to everyone’s feelings, including their own, and uses that knowledge to make the most harmonious decision.

4) Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)—These refer to how students interact with the world around them and how the world perceives them. A “J” student is not judgmental in the negative way we usually think of the term. Rather, this category means a student typically prefers structure and planning. On the other hand, a “P” student is more spontaneous and open to change.

Now that you have a better idea of what each distinct category means, let’s look at their different combinations. With a better understanding of these 16 personality types, you can plan your activities, lessons, and youth room to fit the personality types of the students in your ministry.

If you aren’t sure what your students’ personality types are, there are plenty of free tests on the Internet (although these won’t be as definitive as taking an official Myers-Briggs inventory test).

the extraverts

1) ENFJ (Teacher)

These students are personable, disarming, and aware of the needs of those around them. However, other domineering students or extremely introverted individuals can make them feel unsure of themselves. Small groups will give ENFJs opportunities to take the lead in discussion and will also expose them to other personality types they might otherwise avoid.

2) ENFP (Champion)

These students thrive in any environment rich with multiple personalities, although they may be seen as attention seekers. These students are enthusiastic about their beliefs and can be quite persuasive. However, ENFPs may have a hard time giving others a chance to speak. They can also become so excited about new friendships, that old friendships are neglected for a time. By giving ENFPs a chance to speak in front of the group and encourage them to share their faith with others, you can provide a positive outlet for these students’ energy.

3) ENTJ (Field Marshall)

ENTJs tend to assume leadership roles quickly. Unlike ENFPs, these students don’t necessarily need the approval of others to create and carry out a plan. When they are challenged, ENTJs can become argumentative and unyielding. Small group leadership will give these students a forum to fine-tune their leadership skills. Or, if you’re up for it, invite an ENTJ into the planning session for an event. That will help this student learn to give and receive constructive criticism.

4) ENTP (Inventor)

These students love solving problems and creating new ways to accomplish routine tasks. They are quick thinkers and outspoken, skilled debaters. These students will actively avoid repetitive, routine tasks, and they require straightforward, no-nonsense leadership. These students develop close bonds with those important to them, so they thrive in personal discipleship training. Shake up the routine for large group nights to keep these students excited and engaged.

5) ESFJ (Provider)

Like the name suggests, these students have an uncanny knack for understanding the needs of those around them and striving to provide for those needs. They enjoy being in roles that help them care for others. These students tend to be as protective as they are caring. Often, their need to preemptively protect others from harm leads them to perceive the world as dangerous and untrustworthy. Incorporate frequent service opportunities in your ministry to see your ESFJs excel.

6) ESFP (Performer)

These students love having fun and entertaining. They have no problem making newcomers feel welcome and included. They are excited by new things and get frustrated by boring, routine operations. ESFPs work great in teams, so include them on a student leadership team to get things accomplished. They’re also great on greeter and welcome teams.

7) ESTP (Promoter)

These students are thrill seekers. They love the excitement of high-stakes games. Flexible and outgoing, ESTPs respect individuals who can play and compete on their level. They are also accomplished speakers, utilizing showmanship and “shock” to engage their audience. These students will be bored senseless with theoretical concepts, so, like ISFPs (which I’ll cover later this week), make room for hands-on activities—especially competitions—to capture and keep their attention.

8) ESTJ (Supervisor)

ESTJs excel in organizing people to accomplish tasks. They are practical, straightforward, and efficient. Loyalty is important to these students—they will feel betrayed if they are not appreciated for their gifts. You may find that these students are uneasy with the unconventional and strive to appear “normal.” Willing and ready to express their opinions and principles, these students appreciate it when you give them a venue to do so.

the introverts

Now, I’m going to dive into what situations are best to let introverts shine. Remember, just because a student is introverted doesn’t mean they are shy or don’t like to be around people. It just means that they tend to draw energy from being alone rather than being in large groups. Close, one-on-one relationships are more energizing to them than parties or group settings. With that in mind, here are the Myers-Briggs personality types for your introverted students.

9) INFJ (Counselor)

This is the most rare of the 16 types. INFJs derive meaning from their relationships and often have a strong belief system. As the title “counselor” suggests, these students are well attuned with emotions—both their own and others’—and are chronic “givers.” They periodically find themselves depleted of energy and withdraw in order to refuel. Encourage appropriate self/soul care disciplines by practicing them in a large group setting. Help these students normalize their feelings of exhaustion and give them an outlet for much needed rest.

10) INFP (Healer)

INFPs are constantly excited and in awe of the world around them. They quickly adapt to changing environments in most areas, as long as the change does not directly conflict with their strong faith principles. These students are their own worst critics in faith and moral perfection. They can be hard on themselves and experience immense disappoint when they mess up. Remind INFPs about grace regularly. By giving them examples of men and women who were “heroes of the faith”—including their imperfections—you can help these students set a realistic view of their faith journeys.

11) INTJ (Mastermind)

These students are original thinkers and quick problem solvers. They tend to be accomplished in everything they decide to do. INTJs are confident and demand perfection, not only from themselves, but also from those around them. As you can imagine, this leads to conflict. Students with this personality type tend to be extremely private and have difficulty understanding others. Give these students a task to complete (such as painting a house during a outreach mission) to help them achieve a sense of accomplishment. Help them feel like a part of the group, but don’t forget to give them outlets for solitary work.

“It is our duty to know our students and their wonderfully unique personalities.”

12) INTP (Architect

A student with the INTP type is probably analytical and skeptical of ideas brought before them. Despite their skepticism, INTPs are rather easygoing, but they can seem detached from what’s going on around them. Unlike other perfectionist personalities, these students are acutely aware of their inevitable impending failure. Because they are sure they will fail, they have a more difficult time making decisions. Thankfully, failure isn’t always a bad thing. By giving INTPs a safe environment to fail in, they’ll learn that the possibility of failure shouldn’t be crippling—in fact, it can be a great learning opportunity. Use hermeneutics during a large group talk to help these students connect and understand overwhelming or vague concepts in the Bible.

13) ISFP (Composer)

These student’s thrive in the here and now. They tend to be more daring than some other personality types and are quick to test the latest, newest fad. Meaningful experiences give ISFPs a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Like many of the introverted types, ISFPs may become moody and aloof when lacking energy (typically, if they’ve been in a group setting for too long). These students also have difficulty staying committed to a routine or highly organized curriculum. ISFPs learn through experiential teaching, so incorporate relevant, hands-on activities into your lessons to help them engage.

14) ISFJ (Protector)

ISFJs are quick to lend a helping hand and are, often, unhappy unless they are needed in some capacity. Be careful not to take these hard workers for granted. They may be unwilling to draw attention to their service and will probably have difficulty drawing boundaries when needs arise. However, these students can become dissatisfied if their efforts are not recognized. ISFJs are family-oriented; give them space for relationship building to promote the feeling of belonging and commitment in these students.

15) ISTP (Operator)

You might not notice these students until a problem arises. They are content to live in the background and quietly observe their environments. However, once they are needed, they are quick to find a solution and vigorously work to accomplish the tasks at hand. ISTPs have a deep need for personal space—which can be difficult for others to understand. These students prefer to think in logical terms and appreciate concise language, so be sure to include it in your teaching style.

16) ISTJ (Inspector)

These students are organized and dependable. They tend to be more responsible and prefer to methodically accomplish tasks. Chaos is an ISTJ’s worst enemy. Build a little bit of structure into your events, and let these students assist in the planning. That will go a long way in helping this student feel relaxed and helpful.

Keep in mind that the personality types described above not rigid. One student may have very strong preferences towards one type or another, while other students frequently bounce between two or three different types.

Like most personality inventories, the Myers-Briggs only tests an individual’s innate preferences, not their learned behavior. So you may have an introverted student who has learned to enjoy being up in front of people, while an extrovert may prefer to sit back and observe.

As leaders, it is our duty to know our students and their wonderfully unique personalities. Listen to and encourage their strengths and passions to cultivate a long-lasting and meaningful faith journey.

CC Image courtesy opensource.com on Flickr.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More